We’d all love to bring in our own lunch to work – it is cheaper and healthier than ordering in. But some weeks (OK, most of them) are just too trying. Unfortunately, a seemingly innocent takeaway habit can result in some mega pounds. To help you battle your bulge Time Out’s teamed up with top nutritionist Belinda Rennie. Together, we’ve figured out the healthiest options at your favourite lunchtime haunts.
The sushi bar
Snack on: miso soup, cucumber roll and seaweed salad.
‘This is a low-fat lunch that will fill you up,’ says Rennie. Furthermore, it’s nutrient-rich. ‘Especially the seaweed,’ she adds. ‘Seaweed has so many nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium… it just goes on.’
Shun: anything with teriyaki. ‘A lot of sauces poured on proteins in Japanese restaurants are quite rich and sweet. If you want grilled meat, have them put the sauce on the side.’
Calorie weigh-in: 520.
The Lebanese hangout
Snack on: lentil soup and rocca salad.
‘A lot of Arabic dishes are very focused on vegetables, which is great. You can actually eat a very healthy Lebanese meal if you order right.’
Shun: bready dishes and anything fried. Skip the kibbeh and falafel, it’s just fat. You’re also better off with rocca salad over fattoush.’
Calorie weigh-in: 420.
The curry shop
Snack on: vegetable kadai and naan.
‘Go for any of the vegetable curries or tandooris, especially the ones low on butter, cream or oil,’ says Rennie. Kadais are good, because they’re stir fried, and aren’t as heavy or rich as other dishes. If in doubt Rennie says to request less oil. ‘Also, just stick to a single carb – rice or bread, but not both. And get a naan instead of a paratha. Naans are backed, while parathas are fried.’ Also, as Indian portions tend to be large, make sure to half it, at least.
Shun: creamy, rich meat dishes. ‘Forget the butter chicken. It’s heavy and quite fattening.’
Calorie weigh-in: 510
Snack on: a roasted veggie sandwich on brown bread and a fresh juice.
‘Just avoid white bread. It’s got nothing good in it. Brown bread or multi-grain bread has more fibre and nutrients generally,’ says Rennie. She adds that vegetables and fish can make good sandwich filling.
Shun: rich, cheese-based baguettes. Rennie says it’s all too easy to pick up a grilled cheese, but, she adds ‘Cheese is just packed with fat and cholesterol.’
Calorie weigh-in: 410
Snack on: wonton soup and broccoli with garlic sauce.
‘Clear soups beat all the fried dishes that characterise Chinese food,’ says Rennie. She advocates sticking to vegetable heavy dishes, and asking for sauce on the side.
Shun: fried food and noodle dishes. ‘It’s best to avoid heavy starches,’ she says, adding that spring rolls and stir-fried noodles are likely to leave diners ‘feeling heavy’.
Calorie weigh-in: 278
The burger chain
Snack on: A bun-less burger and a side salad.
‘A lean, low-fat, good-quality burger is actually as good an option as a Caesar salad with a big rich dressing, that’s how I see it,’ says Rennie, adding that it’s best to get rid of the bun.
Shun: French fries and creamy dressed salads. ‘Some salads have so much cheese and dressing, you might as well go for the burger you were craving to begin with,’ says Rennie.
Calorie weigh-in: 450